Monday, May 29, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Claims the Bar Chilled His Speech

(CN) - An attorney says the Kentucky Bar Association tried to stop him from criticizing the state Legislative Ethics Commission's investigation of state Senate President David Williams' fund raising. John Berry Jr. says Reed Moore, chairman of the Bar's inquiry commission, sent him a "warning letter" threatening professional sanctions if Berry continued to "publicly imply" that the state Ethics Commission had failed to conduct a proper inquiry.

Moore warned that Berry had violated a Kentucky State Supreme Court ruling prohibiting lawyers from making false statements about judges, public officers or candidates for public office, Berry says in his complaint in Frankfort Federal Court.

Berry says the 1st Amendment protects his right to say whatever he likes about the Commission.

In 2007, Kentucky attorney Richard Beliles filed a complaint with the Commission accusing Williams, a conservative Republican, of "fund-raising irregularities."

The Commission dismissed the complaint after barring observers, including Berry, from its preliminary inquiry.

After dismissal, Berry says he sent the Commission a letter criticizing the decision. He says he sent the letter to the press after he found out that the Commission named the letter as an agenda item for an upcoming meeting.

That's when the Bar allegedly accused Berry of violating the State Supreme Court ruling.

Berry says he wants to keep speaking about the ethics investigation. He wants a declaration clarifying his free speech rights and an injunction prohibiting Moore from taking disciplinary action.

He is represented by William Sharp with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.